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How YouTube's Year-In-Review 'Rewind' Video Set Off a Civil War


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An anonymous reader quotes a report from The New York Times:
You might guess that a surefire way to make a hit video on YouTube would be to gather a bunch of YouTube megastars, film them riffing on some of the year's most popular YouTube themes and release it as a year-in-review spectacular. You would be wrong. YouTube tested that theory this week, releasing its annual "YouTube Rewind" year-end retrospective. The eight-minute video was a jam-packed montage of YouTube meta-humor, featuring a who's-who of YouTube stars along with conventional celebrities. The video was slickly produced and wholesome, with lots of references to the popular video game Fortnite, shout-outs to popular video formats, and earnest paeans to YouTube's diversity and inclusiveness. It was meant to be a feel-good celebration of a year's worth of YouTube creativity, but the video started a firestorm, and led to a mass-downvoting campaign that became a meme of its own. Within 48 hours, the video had been "disliked" more than four million times. On Thursday, it became the most-disliked video in the history of the website, gathering more than 10 million dislikes and beating out the previous record-holder, the music video for Justin Bieber's "Baby." 

The issue that upset so many YouTube fans, it turns out, was what the Rewind video did not show. Many of the most notable YouTube moments of the year -- such as the August boxing match between KSI and Logan Paul, two YouTube stars who fought in a highly publicized spectacle watched by millions -- went unmentioned. And some prominent YouTubers were absent, including Felix Kjellberg, a.k.a. "PewDiePie," one of the most popular creators in YouTube's history, who had appeared in the Rewind videos as recently as 2016. Some YouTubers enjoyed the video. But to many, it felt like evidence that YouTube the company was snubbing YouTube the community by featuring mainstream celebrities in addition to the platform's homegrown creators, and by glossing over major moments in favor of advertiser-friendly scenes.
The Times says the Rewind controversy "is indicative of a larger issue at YouTube, which is trying to promote itself as a bastion of cool, inclusive creativity while being accused of radicalizing a generation of young people by pushing them toward increasingly extreme content, and allowing reactionary cranks and conspiracy theorists to dominate its platform." 

"But people like Mr. Kjellberg and Mr. Paul -- stars who rose to prominence through YouTube, and still garner tens of millions of views every month -- remain in a kind of dysfunctional relationship with the platform. YouTube doesn't want to endorse their behavior in its official promotions, but it doesn't want to alienate their large, passionate audiences, either," reports the NYT. "And since no other platform can rival the large audiences and earning potential YouTube gives these creators, they are stuck in a kind of unhappy purgatory -- making aggrieved videos about how badly YouTube has wronged them, while also tiptoeing to avoid crossing any lines that might get them barred, or prevent them from making money from their videos." This tension is at the heart of the controversy over YouTube Rewind. 

"A YouTube recap that includes only displays of tolerance and pluralism is a little like a Weather Channel highlight reel featuring only footage of sunny days -- it might be more pleasant to look at, but it doesn't reflect the actual weather..."

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